By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
We removed last week's cover story, "Do You Wanna Kiss Me?" by Nick Sylvester, from theVillage Voice website when questions surfaced regarding the reporter's work. While a review of the story demonstrated that the bulk of the author's article was accurate, the piece also contained fabrication and composite anecdotes used in the interest of narrative. Sylvester admitted his errors and promptly apologized. He was just as promptly suspended. We regret this shoddy journalism.
Sylvester made up the story about me
I just read the article about The Game where Nick Sylvester, who I know, made up a defamatory and false story about me and used my real name, profession, and hometown in the article. I was never in New York on the trip he claimed and never performed the actions he said I did. I am incredibly upset about this and am currently consulting with my lawyer about legal action. I would also like a retraction printed.
Los Angeles, California
Letter of The Week
You can't make this shit up?
Interesting how, à la James Frey, Nick Sylvester takes refuge in the word composite when defending his piece. With that in mind, "I'm a famous . . . (in my mother's mind) . . . groundbreaking musician . . . (I play along with Elvis Costello records on a guitar in my bedroom) . . . with a love life that would make Porfirio Rubirosa blush . . . (I once screwed my ex-wife twice in one night with a minimum of false starts) . . . who overcame the fallout from a 10-year stint in San Quentin . . . (I was once admonished by a police officer for jaywalking when I lived in San Francisco) . . . and have gone on to become a titan of the global communications industry . . . (I hold a mid-level PR job at a Philly money-management firm). All told, a "composite" picture of Ed Dunn.
Readers respond to Sylvester's fabrication:
Just what is Sylvester apologizing for? As near as I can tell, he is apologizing for getting caught. Unless of course he just realized that making stuff up under the guise of journalism is wrong? I don't need him to apologize. I need him to find another career.
I thought the Voice hired the most socially conscious writers that exist. Apparently even the best of us are human. Thank God. I was beginning to think the Voice was a little too "holier than thou." Pointing fingers at everyone and everything. It's only a matter of time before the hand swings back to one of your own. Still, I love your work and hope this doesn't become larger than it is.
Perhaps the editors should have realized that Sylvester is a talented, gonzo journalist, and that his chops depend on a fluid non-naturalistic style. The same editors promoting and reveling in his dissection of Cam'ron and Jay-Z's feuds should have realized that Sylvester was turning the navel-gazing in on itself, especially the self-referential pop sociology masquerading as in-depth reporting these days. Those depending on analytic reporting should have turned elsewhere; the error here is in the editors' running "Do You Wanna Kiss Me?" as a news cover, instead of an inside-the-park fresh take on the most tired story in the city-how twentysomethings are fucking in New York.
Kudos to the Voice for its quick response to the Sylvester falsehoods. Oh that every website would be so upfrontnot to mention our dear politicians. The funny thing is, the fake stuff was the best part of an otherwise fairly boring and not especially timely article. Somebody needs to introduce Sylvester to the fiction genre, where making things up ain't just expected, it's de rigueur.
Sylvester should be sacked. I appreciate that he apologized, but he lacks credibility, and apologies don't equate to ethics. He got caught, so he said he's sorry. Even Oprah raked what's-his-name over the coals when she found out he was writing fiction instead of alleged fact. The Voice's credibility is riding on this.
I read Sylvester's "Do You Wanna Kiss Me?" with amusement. The Voice is the latest in a long line of mainstream-media publications that act like they have found something new, and now that it has found it, terms like "post-Game" are coming out. The real story is that it took seven years for the media to catch on to what was going on, on the Internet. Why is the Voice so proud of such a delay? The real story here is how mainstream publishers cash in on distribution rather than original ideas, that they marginalize Internet writers as amateurs until they choose to knight one as being relevant, and if they don't like the source of an idea, well, they just attribute it somewhere else. I wonder if the Voice realizes how dumb it looks being seven years behind the Internet writers.
Put the Sylvester story back up: It will improve traffic to the website and it will let readers see what you're talking about. Some of your readers don't have access to the Voice by newspaper box; the only way they see it is online.